Monday 4 April 2016

2016 Roach Releases

As winter turns to spring we enter our most exciting and rewarding time here in Avon Roach Project land.

This year we are pleased to be able to boast we are unusually ahead of time.

In late February we moved the small fish from our tanks to our stews at Bickton enabling us to scrub clean and refill the tanks ready for the coming spawning. This all went quite smoothly and we were pleased with the number of fish we’d managed to get through the winter. They are all now feeding and growing happily in the stews where they’ll stay for the next two years until it’s their turn to go back in the Avon.

Then it was time for the main event of the old year; stocking the three year olds into the river.

We’d pencilled in the week after the Easter Bank Holiday, but had our spirits dampened slightly when Storm Katie visited Project HQ and smashed two of the tank lids to bits, then deposited a sky-full of rain into the river sending it up and over.

This meant that one of the chosen locations for the releases had to be changed due to flooded fields and tracks.

No year is ever the same in terms of the numbers of fish we manage to grow and we have stopped even contemplating the why’s and wherefore’s (actually, that’s not true; we eat, drink and breath it). However, in terms of routines and procedures, every year is identical – eggs, hatch, feed, grow, move, scrub, stock, worry, cakes, pasties, argue – repeat...

This year we were preparing to net and release what we considered an average number of adults and off the back of our most successful release ever last year, our glasses were decidedly half empty.

However, pretty soon the wind was back in our sails and we were flying along on the crest of a wave.

The first run round with the net revealed the most wonderful haul of red fringed, plump silver nuggets.

It’s impossible to describe the feeling of pride and satisfaction at seeing so many perfect adult Avon Roach courtesy of our efforts ready to be returned to where they belong and where within a month will themselves be adding to the recovery of the species by spawning.

We’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story, but would like to finish by thanking Jim Allan of the EA for coming along to help and supplying all the tanks, pipes, oxygen and expertise, plus of course our good friends Dickie and Martin Howell for all their help.

Next stage is the placing of the spawning boards in the river in rediness for the forthcoming action predicted for the 25th April barring ice or floods.

February sees the movement of the small ones from the tanks. These are two year olds kept back for an additional year. Little minters aren’t they?

Storm Katie breezes in for a short visit  and leaves her mark, adding to the list of jobs we need to take care of...
The first run of the net in the first stew is always a tense time.
Until it reveals this, when our collective sighs of relief could probably be heard from space.
First few sparkling Avon Roach. What a fantastic sight.
And into the transportation barrel they go.
Jim can’t resist a cuddle from one of the brightest.
Then it’s off to the river to begin the 2016 deliveries.
These fish were released into a huge slack in the high and coloured river where they’ll be safe.
Jim and Trev get a cuddle from two of the last net-full to be deposited on the first day.
We were joined by Lower Burgate landowner John Stallard who just laughed when we said we wanted him to be the third member and backing vocalist in our roach band, especially when Jim ‘BigDrums’ our percussionist got going on the barrel drum to our new single..... And a one two three four...
We love our roaches, oh yes we dooooo... We love our roaches, oh yes we dooooo... You love our roaches, oh yes you dooooo... And all our roaches they love us tooooo...
Move over McCartney.
He was soon humming along to the chorus though, as you can see in this picture..... Just kidding...          
John and his son Nick have been great ARP supporters from day one and beyond, and we’d like to thank them for being such fab blokes.
Day two and we were joined by Dickie’s brother Martin, and once again we held our breath for the first run of the net around the second stew.
We were, yet again, blown away by the numbers and quality of the beautiful nets of roach.... You’d have thought we might have gotten used to it by now.
We always ensure a few short moments of self-indulgence and sometimes have to pinch ourselves when we see the barrels of sparkling Avon Roach we have managed to get from egg to this.
Avon Roach Perfection...
We even managed a rare shot of us two nutcases with some of our babies. Budgie is holding probably the biggest roach we have ever grown in a stew. 
Next drop was the famous Cinder Path at the Royalty Fishery, but not before a nice group shot. From left to right – Jim Allan, Nigel Gray, Jason Lewis, Trev, Martin Howell and Budgie in the foreground.
Another picture with our babies before they go.
And off they go to continue the regeneration of the species in this famous roach stretch of the river. This is the second deposit we’ve made here.... And, of course, the larval drift from the spawning of these will help continue to bolster the population below and throughout the Royalty from where we collect some of our spawn each year. 
Last net-full and all under the watchful eye of the delightful ‘Lottie’ who now helps run Davis Tackle with Nigel and Helen in Christchurch...
Without the fantastic help from Jim Allan and the amazing support we get from the Environment Agency, aside from the help with the loan of all the kit, the smooth running and enjoyment of these fairly full-on days would be nowhere near the wonderful level it is.
And for every yin there is a yang... Sometimes, due to rough terrain, Budgie has to sit it out, which he had to do here at our alternative location and last drop, Shallows Farm at Breamore. Shallows Farm is indeed a ‘farm’ with lots of little moo cows, all doing what moo cows do a lot – and just look at how much of it he has managed to pick up on his rear tyres.... And will you also just take a look at how pleased he seems with this achievement....
First scoop of our pristine roach for Breamore.
And away they go. This is the second deposit we have made here. The first being those seen in our little film made by our good mate Hugh Miles.
We just had to have a last little cuddle with a couple of them...
What perfect creatures – plump and bright.
The ‘trophy shot’ and we think three happy faces...
The last of the 2016 stock is emptied into the river. These should continue the recovery of the roach in this stretch and down and beyond Burgate through displacement and migration and of course the larval drift from the hatching of the spawn these will be producing in a few weeks. As we have pointed out before, it is this natural phenomenon of larval drift we are depending upon to populate stretches we don’t have direct access to for whatever reason, so by depositing in as many places as we can and filling in as many of the gaps as we can, we can be sure that the whole river will reap the benefits of our efforts.